As mentioned in my previous entry, I thought that this film was definitely better than the first one (which I also enjoyed). Putting it another way, it rocked so very much indeed!
Mary-Jane and Aunt May came across very well in this film. They were more than just supporting characters, since it was clear that they had real reactions to things Peter said and did, i.e. he's a supporting character in their lives as much as vice-versa. So, it's not just a question of "will she be upset with Peter if he tells her this?" but "will this upset her?" Interestingly, Aunt May's reaction to Peter's involvement in Ben's death was different to the way JMS handled it in the comics. Mind you, I was surprised not to see any follow-up to Peter's apparent desertion of Aunt May in the bank.
I felt a bit bad for John Jameson and the blonde girl from across the hallway, but I did like the happy ending. From John's point of view, he's better off not marrying MJ if she isn't in love with him. And the other girl could stay friends with Peter (I doubt that John and MJ will stay in touch). Since MJ has been held hostage by the Green Goblin and Doc Ock, without actually being Peter's girlfriend, I don't think she really has much to lose by dating him.
Regarding the ending, I liked the way that MJ took the initiative. That's similar to the way Aunt May insisted that he accept her birthday present, and comes back to the issue about other people having their own feelings. It's fine for him to be noble and self-sacrificing, but it's also good to respect other people's right to make their own decisions. I think that's something I'm guilty of from time to time, despite good advice to the contrary.
Getting uber-fanboy-geeky, the ending also reminded me of the end of a comic: Amazing Spider-Man v1 #122. Unlike the "Spider-Man no more!" scene with the costume in a rubbish bin in an alley (from Amazing Spider-Man v1 #50), this wasn't a direct reference, just a similar theme. In the comic, Gwen Stacy had just died, and MJ came round to visit him and offer sympathy. He wasn't very receptive - he insulted her and told her to get out. She was obviously hurt by this, and walked to the door, then closed it from the inside. I think that's one of the most romantic scenes I've read in a comic, along with the rooftop scene between Ben and Janine in Spider-Man: Redemption #1.
Anyway, coming back to the film, Spider-Man was actually funny in it (e.g. the discussion about his costume in the elevator), which is good. I don't really remember that happening in the first film, but it's definitely an important part of his characterisation in the comics.
The only real problem I had with the film was when Octavius was giving his press conference, and a reporter said something like "If these arms have the level of AI you suggest, what's to stop them taking over your mind?" That seemed to come out of nowhere: either it's a big leap from what Octavius had just said, or she'd read about the arms in his previous publications, in which case other people shouldn't be surprised to see them (particularly not Peter). But I'll let that one slide, in the interest of moving the pacing along. I'm a bit dubious about the idea of the arms being sentient: I can accept the idea that Otto uses high-level commands (like John Storm thinking "land the plane" in Storm Force), but it seems odd for them to have their own agenda. I think it's more plausible that they are the equivalent of "modifier genes", e.g. that they act like alcohol by distorting his normal thought processes. A similar principle to the idea of prayer, where it's not so much that people hear God's voice, but rather that they gain clarity as an answer.
Otto's line about intelligence being a privilege rather than a gift was one of the most inspirational things in the film, and I'll add it to my quotes list once I've confirmed the exact wording. Personally, I think that after the first explosion they should have said "Here's even more money, try again, but do it out in the middle of the desert this time" (a la Gamma Base), since he's clearly a genius, and has got further with fusion than anyone in our world. The scene with the cigar was interesting - it showed that although his goals might still be noble (at some level), he's not averse to picking up some creature comforts along the way, so there's a subtle corruption going on there.
I still think Robbie was miscast, but I also think it's best to stick with the same actor. And the way he commented on Spidey turning up at the fusion demonstration did have echoes of the running sub-plot in the comics (where it's been heavily implied that he knows that Peter is Spider-Man). So, it's possible that part of the problem is just the way he's been directed.
Peter did seem a bit cavalier with his secret identity, but I thought it was quite moving that the crowd backed him up. The two guys sitting behind me were laughing when the people on the train said "You'll have to come through me", and when MJ picked up a metal bar to attack Octavius, but I think they have their priorities wrong. (They seemed more impressed by Harry slapping Peter.) And even if one or two people in the crowd decide to reveal his secret, most of them can only give a vague description rather than a name. There would also be scope for other people to muddy the water, as in "Johnny English". E.g. if one person goes on Oprah saying "Spider-Man has brown hair", someone else could say "No no, that's all wrong - he's got red hair. And an eyepatch. And a huge disfiguring scar down one cheek. That must be why he wears a mask..."
As a general point, although I was familiar with most of the characters and key plot points, there were several times in the film where I thought "Wow, I didn't see that coming!" There were also some tense moments that made me grit my teeth/clench my hands together, like when Otto's wife died. But they were signalled a couple of seconds in advance, so I had enough time to put my drink down first.
I'd forgotten that Peter's webshooters were organic (rather than mechanical, as in the comics), so it took me a while to work out what was going on when he couldn't shoot webs. I thought that either he'd run out of web-fluid (due to financial problems) or that the mechanism was jammed. Similarly, when he then got vertigo on the edge of the roof, I thought it was just a lack of confidence due to the sudden lack of webs. The idea of someone losing his powers because he didn't deserve them anymore does ring a bell from some comic I've read, but I can't place it offhand. But the psychosomatic aspect is an interesting idea.
Speaking of powers, I did like the scene where he was climbing the wall to save Aunt May from Doc Ock. Unlike the normal hands/feet flat on wall style, this was more like free climbing (the way a normal person would do it), but with extra speed/confidence.
Looking ahead, they're certainly laying the groundwork for future films, most obviously with Harry's character arc. It seems odd that Dr Connors is being shown as a physicist rather than a biologist, if they are planning to turn him into the Lizard. However, the change in Doc Ock's origin made sense, so I'll trust them.